HM on Location: Red Roof’s “SHE” elevates and inspires women hospitality leaders

DALLAS — Tackling the gender divide in the hospitality industry head-on, Red Roof welcomed women hospitality professionals to the Fairmont Dallas Sept. 28-29 for a two-day intensive intended to support, inspire and educate.

In 2016, Red Roof launched its Forum on Leadership for Women Entrepreneurs to provide the women of Red Roof and the hospitality industry with business acumen and stronger leadership skills. This year—the company's 50th anniversary year—Red Roof evolved the initiative into SHE inspired by Red Roof to support, help and elevate women. The forum was the kickoff for a continuous infusion of inspiration to facilitate sharing professional experiences and providing collaborative learning opportunities to foster change in the industry. SHE provides thought leadership, access to resources and serves as a platform to share content and best practices through a dedicated website,

Over the past several years, attendees—hoteliers, owners, general managers, developers, investors and industry professionals—have expressed key areas of interest in terms of personal and professional development, Red Roof Chief Marketing Officer and SHE founder Marina MacDonald said. “These areas now serve as our four pillars of SHE Inspired by Red Roof: entrepreneurship and ownership, personal branding, wellness and side hustles. You can absolutely say it's been a big year for SHE inspired by Red Roof. Women are having a moment.”

Gaining Ground

AHLA’s 2023 Women in Hospitality report noted that “women are slowly gaining ground at the top levels of industry leadership, and trends of increased diversity in executive roles have continued as the industry continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.” In short, slow progress is being made toward diversifying the upper ranks of hotel companies.

Of note from the report:

  • Director-level positions held by women equal that of director positions held by men, though disparities increase as one moves up the hierarchy.
  • There are 11.4 men for every 1 woman at the partner/principal level in hotel companies—an improvement from 2019's 15.3:1 ratio, but an indication that there’s clearly more progress to be made.

Red Roof’s initiative to raise those numbers are encouraging. Currently, 35 percent of Red Roof properties are owned or partly owned by women—that’s an increase from 31 percent in 2022; the corporate goal is 40 percent. A healthy 48 percent of women are in Red Rood corporate leadership positions.

Moderated by Lalia Rach, founder and partner at consulting firm Rach Enterprises and founding dean of New York University’s hospitality program, the event featured insights from Chief Development Officer Matthew Hostetler and Director of Strategic Franchise Initiatives Lina Patel. They highlighted the RIDE (Road to Inclusivity and Diversity in Entrepreneurship) program.

“While SHE is intended to motivate, RIDE is intended to activate, providing access to capital, educational resources and connections needed to build a strong network of industry partners,” Rach said.

Forum sessions included crafting a personal brand; lending and terminology prospective owners should know in order to purchase a hotel; a deep dive into the New Markets Tax Credit Program, which incentivizes community development and economic growth through the use of tax credits that attract private investment to distressed communities; navigating the insurance marketplace; and a look at two chapters of Rach’s leadership book, Managing the Book on You.

With over 40 years of experience in leadership roles, including 18 years as chief marketing officer of Best Western, keynote speaker Dorothy Dowling shared details about her career, the importance of personal branding and hard-earned keys to her success in business. Referencing a Harvard Business Review article, Dowling celebrated CQ—the curiosity quotient—and encapsulated the reason for the SHE forum.

“I believe fundamentally in the curiosity quotient, because I believe it drives your innovation, it makes you make better decisions,” Dowling said. “And I think it makes you better at relationships. Warren Buffett talks about learning as being like compound interest. It grows and grows."